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Interview. Former Honduran President Manuel Zelaya, ousted in a coup seven years ago, calls for the intervention of international organizations against new fraud and violence.

Zelaya: ‘There is a dictatorship here, backed by Washington’

Manuel Zelaya, former president of Honduras (2006-2010), was ousted from power by a coup in 2009. Nowadays, he coordinates the “Opposition Alliance Against the Dictatorship,” a center-left electoral coalition that is supporting the candidate Salvador Nasralla, which ran against José Orlando Hernández, the current president seeking a second term for the National Party.

The final count of the votes cast on Nov. 26, as issued by the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE), gave the victory to Hernández with 42.98 percent, versus 41.39 percent for his rival. However, after a “computer system failure” and complaints of fraud, Nasralla, supported by his sympathizers rallying in the streets, did not recognize the results and asked for a recount.

How do you interpret what happened in Honduras after the elections on Nov. 26 — the system failures, the alleged fraud, the protests and the imposition of a state of emergency and curfews?

It is an assault on power by those who already took it by force in 2009, so there is a continuity with the coup from back then.

The TSE announced that it will recheck 5,100 tally sheets that were sent in after the failure of the computer system. Do you accept this recount?

We demand that they count again all the tally sheets and all the votes, because we have established, with evidence, that the servers, databases, programs, logs were all tampered with. Everything has been compromised. So we are asking to check all the tally sheets, vote by vote. Honduras is a small country. It is feasible to do this. It can be done quickly, in three days.

Is there a parallel here with the situation that you experienced firsthand in 2009, during the coup?

Well, yes, the same people are in the high positions. Even though they were now defeated. The TSE said, on the day of the election, that we were 5 points ahead when 70 percent of the votes had been counted. And now, afterwards, the servers go offline for three days and then they tell us that we are losing.

The possibility of President Hernández’s re-election, allowed by a ruling by the Constitutional Court, is a controversial subject. Is this legal? At the time of the coup against you, it was being justified with the false argument that you were seeking re-election, which was not permitted by the Constitution.

Yes, it is strange, as it is only now that the Constitution has been clearly violated. International bodies, for instance, are staying silent. Here we are in a state of emergency, people are on the streets, there are deaths, murders, and even the U.S. State Department is saying nothing. I think they are endorsing the fraud, and then they say they are defending democracy. But if we were in Nicaragua or Venezuela, they would have sent in the Marines already, after all that has happened.

Have you noticed any particular interference by the United States in this election?

Yes, here we are living in countries that are under the rule of the dollar. Everyone says that they run everything around here, certainly.

What do you think of the fact that some divisions of the police refused to obey the orders and to accept the state of emergency imposed by the president to stop the demonstrations?

I say that you can’t rule with a whole people against you, and the police themselves said they would not have repressed the people even if the president had ordered them to do it.

On the other hand, the military is on the streets, and there have been several deaths.

The human rights violations in this country are serious. In Geneva we are classified as a country that violates human rights. That is how things are.

What role did the election observers from the E.U. and the Organization of American States (OAS) play?

Only a few hours ago did the observers from the E.U. and the OAS finally put together a good report. Before, they were very weak and indifferent.

The observers have called for a review of voting tallies, more flexibility on the timing of appeals and a transparent process. Was it thanks to the protests?

Well, they have seen it. They have noticed how the issue of election documents and the manipulation [of] the computers are all being handled, so now they are aware of what is happening. Even the OAS.

Why did you decide to support Nasralla?

It was a matter of political expediency — we made an alliance to defeat the dictatorship.

You call yourselves the Alliance Against Dictatorship. Is there a dictatorship in Honduras?

Here we have military laws that have invaded the civil sector. Constitutional guarantees have been suspended, power has been centralized, debate has been banned and democracy as well. I am a deputy, and even in parliament there are serious limits to democracy. Meanwhile, the statistics for violence are extremely high. They have looted the state and violated the constitution. The president was not allowed to run, and he still did, and now he is winning by fraud. There is a solidly built dictatorship here, backed by Washington.

Will you accept the result of the recount?

The Tribunal and the results have been tampered with, so we will not accept it.

What do you propose then?

A full recount of the votes in order to give transparency to the system.

Is repeating the vote a possibility?

Specific laws would have to be passed for this, but it would be an option that we would accept.

After the 2009 coup and two right-wing governments, what does Honduras need to turn the page?

The way forward is democracy: Give people, the people, the opportunity to express themselves, to be consulted. We have to become a participatory democracy, in which the people make the decisions. The government no longer works. Governments should have their powers removed and restored to the people.

Honduras has gone through a hard period, with great repression. What is your opinion on the Berta Cáceres case?

As I said, Honduras stands convicted of human rights violations, and it was in this context that an activist defending the environment like Berta Cáceres was killed.

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